Is your company a grant-maker? You might not realise it, but any company giving annual donations, fundraising, grants, or choosing a ‘charity of the year’ for a money donation can be considered a grant maker. Some companies have a systematic process and organised grant giving scheme. Some operate in a more ad hoc way, donating a lump sum of money collected through fundraising activities or percentage of sales etc. Here at whatCharity.com we want to ensure that all charitable activity is impactful. There are a few key points to consider when thinking about effective company-charity engagement that are easy to implement but all too often overlooked by corporations.
A nationwide research project conducted by whatCharity (558 charity respondents), indicate that all charities are keen for long term/annual grant support and over 85% of charities wish to partner with a company through fundraising activities. However, out of the 80% of charities who get any type of company collaboration, only 50% receive monetary support. There is definitely room for improvement, and the importance of company support within the charity sector is only growing.
Companies can have a huge positive impact engaging both locally and on a national scale. Company volunteering and product/service contributions are hugely valuable for many charities, but project based and general funding are often the core of what charities need to keep operations running and doors open.
Here at whatCharity.com, we want to encourage companies to give more grant-type funding to charities. We understand that there are transparency challenges and many companies report difficulties when it comes to understanding impact. As advocates of a more transparent and democratic charity sector, we want to make it easier for you to engage with charities in a more meaningful way.
Here are a few tips to help companies give more effectively:
1) Find your reason:
When thinking about grantmaking, a good place to start is purpose, or reason.
It is no secret that companies want to build their brand and engage with employees through CSR activities. In fact, 91% of companies in the UK report employee engagement and brand reputation as major motivations for employing CSR initiatives.
Will the grant serve the purpose of a) making a statement about your company’s corporate strategy supporting overall business goals, or b) engaging staff with decision making?
Pinpointing the purpose of grant making in this way leads to an understanding of decision making and end results.
When looking for charities to support, their theory of change (read more about it here) and impact goals (past and present) should play a defining role in decision-making. Is the organisation really engaging with the cause they support in a meaningful way and are they making a change? (Sometimes, this information is hard to obtain and that is the reason why whatCharity exists).
Whilst companies generally look at return on investment when thinking about their input, employees and customers often want a sense of purpose in working for the company or consuming their goods or services. So engaging in charitable activity in this way can be a positive way to reach employees and customers alike.
When companies take employees out on activity days or charitable activity centres around fundraising, there’s a sense of collective achievement and purpose, a ‘helpers high‘ if you like. Money donations can still induce the same feelings if it is done right and more often than not makes a greater difference to the charities themselves. This leads to the next tip:
2) Reporting Back:
When giving a substantial amount of money to a charity, the company is entitled to get some feedback on the impact they have helped achieve (impact reporting). This information can then be used as an acknowledgement of company CSR initiatives and goodwill, but it is also the measure of effective engagement.
‘Substantial’ can be hard to define but it essentially centres around the size of the charity and the size of the company. £1,000 can be a game changer for a small, voluntary run charity. The same applies to companies. Larger companies can easily give tens of thousands of pounds in grants, but for a smaller company, £5,000 annually can be a huge contribution. Therefore, in order to get an active collaboration and communication going between companies and charities, mutual expectations must be considered. The company needs to assess what kind of impact reporting they expect and what kind of organisation could achieve these goals.
It is important to remember here that numbers and statistics do not always correlate to profound change. A high number of beneficiaries for example does not necessarily indicate to what extent those people have felt a positive change. All too often, company initiatives have a detrimental effect on charities, this is where impact reporting becomes a necessary feature of charity-company collaboration.
As mentioned, a charity should always have a theory of change in place, meaning that they have a philosophy and method of creating a positive change. It is not guaranteed that these initial ideas will always work, so it is important that a charity has a monitoring and measurement processes in place. Depending on the size and type of project, monitoring can be done via surveys, observations, other statistics and/or testimonials. It is good to remember that only the charity itself can do the impact evaluation and should be fed back to companies subsequently. No platform can do it for the company, nor assumptions of successful impact be given (e.g. referring to UN Sustainable Development Goals, if the positive impact cannot be proven).
3) Consistent method of giving:
Charities are constantly running projects and struggling to get their project funding in place. Some projects are funded by tens or even hundreds of funders. It is very much beneficial for a charity to get an annual or longer term partner who is committed to fund either projects or general operations with a pre-arranged sum of money. Most charities expect grants to be given alongside expectations of some kind of impact reporting.
Therefore, we encourage companies to give either annual, bi-annual, quarterly or monthly money grants that can be distributed via a organised process. The amount of money distributed should correspond to the depth and length of the application process. Sometimes, companies ask for too much information and input from charities for a small amount of money – which again dilutes the impact.
It is also important to state, that if a company wants to support interesting and innovative grassroots charities, a comparable and democratic grant making process is the only way for ethical and impactful giving. Larger charities have professional fundraisers to write the bids, as the smaller ones share the tasks between their few employees. Grants available are hard to find to any charity, and time available to seek for the opportunities are very scarce to many. Therefore, open, easy access and wide reach in communication is the key for democratic and equal grant making.
We at whatCharity have created processes, templates and services to cater the needs of any type and size of companies giving grants. whatCharity updates information on all registered charities in England and Wales on a monthly basis and we communicate with them weekly in order to ensure democracy and reach for fair company-charity collaboration. Our services extend to fundraising activities and placing skills-based volunteers; companies can collaborate with charities by providing whatever resources are needed.